Grey in name but not in nature! In January 1848 on a visit to Greymouth, Thomas Brunner journeyed up the river which he later named the Grey River to honour the then Governor of New Zealand, Sir George Grey. In 1868 the town took the name Greymouth from its situation at the mouth of the Grey River.
Today Greymouth is the geographic and commercial heart of the West Coast and the largest town. You’ll find the town surrounded by lush green hills to the east and the Tasman Sea to the west. It’s central location makes it an ideal base to explore the beautiful region of the West Coast of the Southern Alps.
A small rural town, you’ll find all the key amenities and services you may require while on the West Coast. Greymouth boasts a good range of accommodation including seaside holiday parks, modern and well equipped motels, hotels, bed and breakfasts and backpacker accommodation. You’ll find an easy accommodation match to suit all budgets.
Experience a visual feast of jade carving at Shades of Jade and photography at the Stewart Nimmo gallery, both located within Greymouth’s town centre. You’ll also find a great selection of cafés, restaurants and boutique shopping, perfect for a coffee or retail fix. Other amenities include the Grey District Aquatic Centre with swimming pools, hydroslides, spa and sauna, History House Museum, full of local and regional treasures and the Regent Theatre, the district’s newly modernised 3D cinema.
You’ll be amazed by the rare katabatic wind formation that sweeps through Greymouth, known locally as the ‘Barber’. It is one of only a few locations around the world where this occurs, a beautiful but chilly attraction as in the image above.
History and Heritage
The first dwellings at the Grey River mouth were constructed by Ngati Wairangi Maori at Cobden. Later this site was abandoned in preference for a south bank location known as Mawhera Pa. It became an important settlement of Poutini Ngai Tahu.
A plaque close to the Cobden road bridge at the entrance to Greymouth records that this was the place where Poutini Ngai Tahu signed the ‘Deed of Purchase’ for the West Coast in 1860. The transaction was carried out in the presence of James Mackay, the Government agent of the time. Today much of the town’s central business district remains Maori land.
European settlement followed the discovery of coal and gold. In July 1865, Rochford’s early surveyed grid of the town was forgotten and the river front became the real axis. Virtually the entire business section crowded along the crescent of Richmond and Mawhera Quays, giving rise to ‘Crescent City’ as an early name for Greymouth.
While the town expanded and changed, it was always vulnerable to the forces of nature, and successive floods wreaked havoc. Early European settlement was based around the goldfields and the coal mines and the town grew rapidly. Fires and floods have destroyed many early records, but many ‘old Greymouth’ buildings still remain. Following two major floods in 1988, the Greymouth Flood wall was begun. Completed in 1990, it stands as a symbol of defiance against the threat of flooding from the mighty Grey River. The wall not only provides security for the town, but also offers visitors an opportunity to enjoy the town’s heritage on foot.
The Greymouth Heritage Trust are a dedicated group of local people working to preserve the heritage and history of the Grey District. For more information please visit their website by clicking here.